Amazing … it was a day when it seemed everything could go wrong. Exactly like one of those moments that Pastor Joel preaches about … when we’re inclined to just throw ourselves one big pity party for all the things that go wrong, thereby missing out on the positives that come into our lives. Things started off ok when I got out of the office with ample time to spare. I had my mind set on getting to church a good deal early, catch up on some reading, clear my head a bit from the frazzled work schedule. I just hate arriving at church right on the heels of a hectic day. It takes some of the wind out of my sails when that happens, and I’d very much tried to work out today so that this wasn’t the situation.
So I leave work, hop a bus. I’ve got the schedule worked so that it takes all of 20 minutes with a tight timeframe for a transfer near downtown. Even if I miss that transfer, I’ve got a Plan B that gets me to church in 30 minutes. Things couldn’t look any better as I get on bus #1. Things continue to look optimistic as bus #2 stops after pulling out of the transfer station just for me. I’m gonna get to church in record time and just go nuts with all this extra time on my hands … right? Well, not if bus #2 misses it’s route. It was one of those odd bus routes that goes off on another street about 5 routes out of the day, only once during PM rush hour. This was supposed to be that bus. Said so on the bus’ display, even. That was of little help, however, as I realized the driver wasn’t aware of the alternate route. So what happens? My 20 minute ride turns into a 1:20 hour ride to get to church. I arrive with about 5 minutes to spare … flustered, frustrated, irritated. I’d used up a full week’s worth of allotted swear words at a bus transit center. It took all the strength I felt I had left over to keep them under my breath since I didn’t have room for that big ol honkin’ Bible in my briefcase. I was just sure that a foulmouthed guy with a Bible really would have stood out like … well, like a preacher’s wife getting kicked off an airplane.
So I did my best. I kept trying to keep things in perspective. I was going to make it to church on time. I was looking forward to hearing Marcos Witt preach. Surely the music would get me back into a happier place. There’s plenty of folks doing far worse than I was today. So don’t let the negatives that are happening take away from the positive things you’re going to church for.
Sure enough, the service had it’s plusses. For one, Aimee Beard was leading the praise & worship. Singing with the ensemble, she seems to have hit a few strides lately, too. I think her singing style is part of the reason I’d not taken significant notice of her during previous praise & worship services. The choir sometimes drowns out her voice. She’s not quite the “entertainer” that Cindy is on stage. And the songs weren’t necessarily written with her vocal strengths in mind. Christmastime at least offers up a few carols that let a good vocalist show off the goods. “O Come Let Us Adore Him” was a particularly strong performance … one of those that gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing at full alert. Yet, oddly enough, one of my favorite songs was done during the prayer portion: “Worthy is the Lamb.” Having seen Cindy Ratliff hit this one out of the park, I was anxious to see what Aimee could do with it. But there wasn’t much difference as the performance was a bit subdued as most of the lead-in songs are during worship/prayer. I mean, it’s not the most opportune time to really show off one’s vocal chords when there’s folks mere feet away praying with the prayer partners.
Aimee’s real strength seems best for those instances where I first took notice of her: singing a solo performance during collection time. It’s a time for performance that really lets one get the spotlight on them. Mind you, I’ve got no complaints if Cindy & Israel want to take some time off. Love ’em both, but our ‘third string’ seems awfully impressive if you ask me.
Marcos did announce that he and Cindy had a duet lined up for the Christmas performance, also. Appropros of little above, that just strikes me as something worth looking forward to. I’ve only seen Marcos do one song during worship and he seems to have a somewhat bluesy type of voice that I may have compared to Marc Cohn once upon a time. One other really cool thing about services with Marcos: being a musician (actually, a three-time Latin Grammy winner), he really lets the music roll during worship. Whereas Joel has a pretty regular routine of interrupting the worship with a welcome message after song #1, prayer after about 3-4 more songs, and then collection, plus one more song … Marcos just lets the music flow. He even ended the sermon with him singing his way off stage as the band played (as opposed to the more customary band-only outro that features the occassional nifty guitar licks of Michael Hodge).
Anyways … the sermon itself.
Marcos has a more entertaining quality to his preaching style. Same goes for his sermon titles. “How to Scam Proof Your Life” is a somewhat unique twist to understanding God’s truth. The point of the sermon basically being that if you know the truth, you recognize falsehoods inherently. You don’t study falsehoods for the sake of disproving them so much as you understand the truth to recognize that which does not fit as being false.
Case in point … counterfeit money. Marcos gave this example, but it’s one I can relate to since I’d gone through a professional stint as a bank teller once upon a time. We not only had to determine false money, but also false identities. In both cases, we didn’t go over a few good forgeries and learn their qualities. We went over what made a dollar bill authentic or not … what made a driver’s license authentic or not. We went over it in good detail. I mean, the better part of a day … just going over the qualities of real, authentic currency and identification. After all of that, for about 5 minutes, our trainer just passed around a big pile of fake IDs, a random assortment of fake bill, and essentially said “… and here’s a bunch of fakes.” After all of that training, we could spot this pile before us and realize in an instant how wrong each example was. During my brief time as a teller, it came in handy all of once. Kid came up with a check from a paper route or something. He wasn’t dishonest, but he just didn’t have any ID. What he did have was one of those ID cards you get at a shop that sells such things. They sell them because there’s a legal disclaimer that clears them. The ID card has a line about being used only for “amusement purposes.” I showed the kid the disclaimer and explained that we couldn’t accept it as ID. Not sure he really got why … maybe because he was only around the fake and hadn’t seen the real things enough to know that what he had did not fit in as “authentic.”
Marcos also ran an audio clip of a pretty funny radio show gag … one of those where they call and run some type of scam on an unsuspecting listener. In this case, it was a dad playing a joke on his daughter by having the DJ call as if he was the owner of the auto shop where the girl had left her car. He went on about how the headlights were low on fluid … how the car was missing a transmission … and the poor girl was just buying the scam hook, line, and sinker. It was obvious she didn’t know much about cars. OK, it was obvious she knew next to nothing about cars.
Marcos lists 6 steps to get closer to the truth: